An essential feature of official statistics is that the producers apply the Code of Practice for Statistics during their preparation, production and publication.
The producers must also meet the standards of the Pre-release Access Order for their administration, if allowing pre-release access of the statistics in their final form for briefing purposes.
The producers must be a crown body or have been put on a statutory Official Statistics Order by a minister (or Northern Ireland Department).
Applying the standards of the Code of Practice provides strong reassurance to users that they can have confidence in the official statistics – in their trustworthiness, quality and value.
It is important that the provenance of statistics is clear. When publishing official statistics, the producer should clearly state that they are official statistics to reassure users that the Code of Practice has been applied in their preparation.
The GSS Good Practice Team has published guidance for producers to assist them in deciding whether to label some data as official statistics. Producers should consider the public value of the numbers in making this choice.
Where they decide it is not appropriate to label them as official statistics, we strongly encourage producers to voluntarily apply the Code pillars in the preparation and publication of the outputs.
Official statistics are disseminated in a variety of formats, such as: reports in PDF and printed formats, infographics and dashboards, statistics topic web pages and online tools for data tabulation and interrogation by users.
The statistics are accompanied by supporting narrative and material that helps to explain the data, methods, quality issues and guidance on how to use the data. They can range between simple collections of data to complex analyses. They may also be accompanied by source data and coding to support the replication of the statistics.
Code of Practice edition 2.0 applies to ‘statistics’ rather than focusing on ‘statistical reports’, as was the case in the first edition. This change was made to reflect that official statistics are often not limited to being presented solely in a statistical bulletin. Instead they are released in more flexible and varied ways and can be part of a wider package of information.
This package can extend from pre and post processing data tables, to the final statistical presentations such as with detailed analyses, statistical summaries, and narrative descriptions. The material may also include related information that are not official statistics such as transactional data and management information where the source is often an administrative or operational system.
Statistical tables may be released, such as in open data format or Excel files, or in other forms such as data cubes, or large pre-designed table collections, through online tools, with charting, mapping and analysis functions.
As well as a variety of modes, the outputs may be published over time rather than in one batch. Releases can vary from statistics being published in real time, to being published on an annual basis. It is vital that clear navigation is provided across the range of related statistical material to ensure appropriate guidance and support is provided to users.